Politics and lolcats: Lebanon's 'stand-up' former warlord rulez Twitter

Politics and lolcats: Lebanon's 'stand-up' former warlord rulez Twitter
Blog: MP Walid Jumblatt, described by some as the Woody Allen of Lebanese politics, has a huge following on Twitter, where he shares jokes, memes and political insights.
3 min read
27 Nov, 2015
Although Lebanese politics are deadly serious, Jumblatt's lighter side has made them more palatable [AFP]
In Arabic, they say the worst disasters are those that make you laugh.

To many, Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese MP, leader of the Druze religious minority and head of the so-called Progresive Socialist Party (PSP) belongs to this category.

To those who are not very familiar with Lebanon's dismal politics, Jumblatt was one of the key figures in the country's civil war, which lasted 17 years until the Taif Accord was signed in the late 1980s.

Jumblatt's PSP, like all other militias, committed atrocities during the war. However, Lebanon's post-war reconciliation deal rehabilitated most warlords, including Jumblatt, and put them in power rather than on trial.

Yet Jumblatt's quirky persona, notorious fickleness, outrageous outspokenness and peculiar sense of humour has made him more tolerable to many Lebanese than the curmudgeons of Lebanese politics.

Love him or hate him, Jumblatt, in a country where it is futile to talk about replacing the entrenched political class, has become the source of much entertainment.

Before the age of social media, Jumblatt was a popular guest on television talk shows. Many tuned in to hear him make shocking revelations or dance around difficult questions with his quips and sometimes cryptic references.

In the past two years, Jumblatt decided to cut out the middleman and address his "fans" directly by joining Twitter, where he reportedly personally writes his own tweets.

Most of Lebanon's politicians and celebrities are active on Twitter and other social media platforms, but Jumblatt is a special case.

Jumblatt has a whopping 153,000 followers, most of whom do not support him politically, but are there to both remain up to speed with his often-amusing political insights, and catch a glimpse of his shenanigans - and grammar bloopers - on Twitter.

Many are also there to mock him or attack him for his war years and alleged involvement in post-civil war corruption, but to his credit, Jumblatt often responds and engages with his detractors.

Not many other politicians in Lebanon are as forthcoming, and Jumblatt seems to own up to his past, despite being generally unapologetic about it.

Jumblatt, whose profile picture on Twitter shows him next to his dog, Oscar, often posts pictures of himself in silly hats, writes about his dinner plans, cracks jokes complete with emojis and makes amusing pop culture references.

But on Thursday, Jumblatt perhaps outdid himself, when he retweeted a photoshopped picture of himself as action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme from a viral Volvo ad, invoking himself as bridging Lebanon's main political movements, who have been locked for more than a year in an impasse over filling the vacant presidency.